There have been three warships commissioned USS KEY WEST. The Friends of Mallory Square have created a Florida Keys military memorial to tell the history of these three vessels.
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The first KEY WEST was built in 1862 at California, Pa. as the commercial wooden stern wheel steamer Key West #3. The Navy purchased the vessel in April, 1863 and commissioned the ship U.S.S. KEY WEST #32. The steamer was armed with six 24-pound cannon, and the main deck was covered with iron panels to protect the guns and their crews, hence the name "Tin Clad" came into use to describe the many such vessels that patrolled the rivers. Escorting transports and supply ships, her guns frequently engaged the enemy in hit and run fights. On Nov. 4, KEY WEST and two other Union gunboats were caught in a narrow, shallow section of the river, and were attacked by Confederate forces. After vigorous action in which KEY WEST was hit 19 times by rifled artillery, the 3 Union gunboats, riddled with shot, and almost out of ammunition, were set afire and scuttled.
The second U.S.S KEY WEST (PF-17) was launched December 20th, 1943 by the American Shipping Co., Lorain, Ohio. The frigate was commissioned at Houston, November 7, 1944, and stood out of Galveston Bay November 17 for training exercises and escort duty out of Bermuda. KEY WEST escorted convoys until ordered to Boston in July of 1944 where the vessel was converted to a weather ship. After transiting the Panama Canal, KEY WEST was assigned weather station patrol in the vicinity of Guam where she reported meteorological data and stood by to aid ships in distress. In March of 1946 KEY WEST was called back to the States, and patrolled on plane guard off the north California coast. Decommissioned at Bremerton, Washington in June 1946, the ship was sold for scrap in 1947.
The third U.S.S. KEY WEST (SSN-772) is a Los Angeles class submarine launched in July of 1985 at Newport news, Virginia. Commissioned in September 1987, the ship is equipped with the vertical launch system capable of carrying 12 Tomahawk land attack cruise missiles.
The submarine visited her name sake city for a week long celebration after commissioning in 1987, in 1992 and again in 1994.
U.S.S. KEY WEST has spent many years in waters all around the globe.